MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
38 minutes well spent over lunch today. I'll be curious to see if the MQA cadre has any credible response to this very insightful video exposé. I'm predicting they will not.

There is nothing controversial or debatable presented in this video, and the previous pro-MQA retort claiming some sort of internet forum lack of decorum or incivility is rampant in countering MQA's false efficacy simply won't hold any water at all here.

For anyone offered a choice free of region restrictions, ditching TIDAL in favor of true hi-res PCM makes perfect sense. The proof is in the pudding.
 

MrEd

Senior Nobody
Definitely watching this, maybe at lunch today. No time now, off to the salt mine for another day...
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I've been looking for something like this, I'll watch it today when I have a moment.

With MQA I've been of two minds, or maybe more as its been a mixture of initial positive subjective experiences, professional doubts, later disappointing subjective experiences, objective confusion when trying to rectify claims with what's been measured, and generally my marketing hackles rising over suddenly almost every popular choice on Tidal having this seemingly very involved process applied to it around the time their financial fortunes and longevity seemed most at risk.

My initial exposure to MQA was when very few albums had it as an option on Tidal and you could compare them back to back, as well as with any files I had of the same albums (though with possible/probable different mastering). I was using my Bluesound Node 2 to do a 'full unfold' on the files and I liked what I heard, in comparison with the non-MQA versions on Tidal- an experiment that I was also aware was open to marketing manipulation (doing the comparison between MQA/non-MQA on the very platform that benefitted from it) but I gave them the benefit of the doubt.

Later on I began using my Node 2 exclusively with a few external DACs, none of which were capable of doing whatever happens with the final unfold. It was more of a wash at this point with the MQA/non-MQA.

Then I forgot about it for a bit but realized that I had gotten to a point where I'd stopped streaming things on Tidal because I didn't like the sound I was getting. Something seemed to be missing in many tracks. Maybe rather embarrassingly it occurred to me while listening to Tina Turner's Private Dancer that there was something there, that didn't seem to be there.. like there was an unnatural amount of space in the track, a sort of "better imaging" that degraded my overall musical enjoyment, reminded me a bit of a less obnoxious version of the Carver Sonic Holography I toyed with once for a day. And hey that song was the first 45 I ever bought with my own money so no judgment, we go way back :)

So I started paying attention to it again and found the same thing with other tracks (this was fairly recently when nearly EVERYTHING on Tidal suddenly had "MQA" without the option of not having it.) And I would have the same reaction. With my non-unfolding Topping or Berkeley Audio Design DACs, things just felt really off. And so over the last couple of months I've hardly streamed anything on Tidal at all because I was really disliking the sound I was getting (when I used to really like it). Is it another form of expectation bias..that I now expected MQA to sound bad? Maybe. I tend to not overthink that stuff, I just observe whether I'm happy or not with my music. I haven't been happy.

So I'll watch this with curiosity as I know mentally I was really calling bullshit when everything had this "authenticated" thing applied at once. Just what a failing enterprise needs, a unique selling proposition.

I'll say that I don't think originally that it sounded bad...on my Node 2, early on, I really did prefer the MQA files, this was back when maybe 25 albums had it. But it was, again, also a comparison being made mostly on the platform. It was only when I switched to the non-unfold or whatever DAC that I suddenly just lost interest in streaming when the only option was MQA.

Man, that was long-winded, sorry. I'm halfway through a giant carafe of French Pressed deliciousness.
 
Last edited:

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Woah...around 7 minutes in finally some objective measurements that explain what I was hearing with my lady Tina :) I'm happy to have just enough experience in recording in Logic Pro to understand enough of what he's talking about to correlate it and/or completely misinterpret it.
 

JoeThePop

Known member
I watched this morning while I had breakfast and my coffee. More of what I had seen before with Chris Connaker on Audiophile Style, also presented with measurements. My takeaway at that time was how the MQA guys were very combative (guess that's what happens when you threaten somebody's Golden Goose) and did not present good counterpoints, but attacked the presenter and redirected the conversation away from the technical aspects.

I'm sure there will be defenders of MQA that will say for whatever reason the author of this video did something incorrectly, and it will lead to more endless debate about the veracity of MQA. Not being in any way an expert of the type of gear being used to test, I will leave comments on that to others.

What I will ask, and has been asked by many others, what is wrong with native hi-res or FLAC files that a new compression process is needed?

More importantly, if true (I’m not a Tidal subscriber) and the only option is MQA encoded files, then I see that as a huge issue and reason not to consider a Tidal subscription.

I try never tell people what they should like. If somebody likes the sound of MQA, then who am I to say they are wrong? But when it comes to manufacturers and their product replacing others and taking away choice, especially if there are demonstrable, objective issues with their product that I feel they have not honestly tried to address, then I am on the side of this is not good for lovers of music.
 
Last edited:

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I have cancelled Tidal and am going to try out Qobuz. I have rarely used Tidal in the last three months anyway. I didn't have a problem with it when I had the option but lately about 1/2 of what I listen to is only available in MQA. It went from something with no downside- because of the choice- to being forced into something I've increasingly seen as a marketing ploy. Though I don't care if somebody prefers it.. there seems to be enough going on to make a subjective difference in its favor logical in its own way. It just started to sound really off to me.
 

airdronian

Radar Member
Well that was interesting. Refreshingly free of internet histrionics and faux outrage. When an outfit can't or won't respond to specific questions about their product and tries to suppress information, well, that just looks bad.

Also interesting is how much in bed iFi seems to be with MQA. The cynic in me wonders if the principals behind AMR/iFi have a stake in MQA. I have an iDAC2 and iFi recommends the use of their GTO filter for those who can. I'm not one to endlessly compare things like cables, files, etc. but with recent system changes I regressed the DAC firmware from GTO back to Limoncello, which does not offer MQA support. I recall liking the change, it was not a regression sound-wise.

Their "GTO" refers to Gibbs Transient Optimization:

"
Wikipedia referred to the Gibbs phenomenon as “the peculiar manner in which the Fourier series of a piecewise continuously differentiable periodic function behaves at a jump discontinuity. The nth partial sum of the Fourier series has large oscillations near the jump, which might increase the maximum of the partial sum above that of the function itself. The overshoot does not die out as n increases, but approaches a finite limit.” Most crucially, this is one cause of ringing artefacts’ in signal processing which the GTO addresses"

iFi has a tech note which the above is excerpted from; and for people like me it is a cure for insomnia. Maybe that was intentional ? The release notes for firmware 5.3c (as well as 5.3 where MQA support began) indicate that s/pdif output is disabled. No other explanation. That and we lose the capability of DSD512 and PCM768. The video mentioned that digital outputs of MQA enabled devices are disabled. I wonder if that is to prevent piracy, or to prevent analysis. Maybe a bit of both.

As I've said before: "C'mon Qobuz ! New customer waiting right here !"
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Refreshingly free of internet histrionics and faux outrage.
Definitely, the video and its findings are presented in a fair, reasonable, and good faith manner. While that makes it even tougher for MQA to react, I'm doubting they would have done so in any event.

GoldenSound gives credit to past research and testing by Archimago, FredericV of 432 EVO, Mans Rullgard, Miska of Signalyst, Currawong, and various others, as having aided in his investigation.

Unfortunately though that research and testing was in some cases long ago made public, and subsequently supported by a research study done at McGill University, MQA themselves and their (paid?) social media "influencers" had managed to paint all of it as some sort of uncivil internet smear campaign. That stance was certainly fake news and a blatant attempt to deflect the conversation from the real issues and facts, but it was nonetheless at least partially effective, until now.
 

Thermionics

Post Whore In Training
I don’t have a dog in this fight as I don’t stream hi-res files (except from my own rips on my own server) and in general I prefer to purchase physical media. That being said, I couldn’t argue with the presenters methodology nor his conclusions. Combine that with the actions of MQA reps, and something seems very hinky.

It smacks of snake oil of the highest order.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
, and something seems very hinky.
Which is where they lost me. Well, that and they suddenly made it something that wasn't a choice in my listening habits, and instead made it mandatory if I was to continue to be a Tidal subscriber. When I could decide either way, MQA or not, I failed to see much of an issue beyond their claims. Everybody has their thing that really gets them and one of mine is hinky marketing. Maybe I actually paid attention in my ethics in advertising classes.

I'm reminded of an example I've used before in my past life in automotive advertising copywriting. When you say "leather seating surfaces" it means the sides and back of the seats, the parts you don't sit on, aren't leather. A lot of marketing isn't demonstrably false when you really really look at the claims being made. And that's not accidental...and not something that would be unique to MQA.
 

Audionut

Next Round Is On Me
4 minutes in and I’m reminded of totalitarian governments that sensor content/people that disagree or don’t support their views (huge red flag)...also seeing why a cup of coffee is needed if watching this first thing in the morning.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Maybe I actually paid attention in my ethics in advertising classes.
Which is admirable and of value to brands seeking to take the high road. You are only as good as your reputation, and brands can have that crash down fast when BS marketing is employed.

A lot of marketing isn't demonstrably false when you really really look at the claims being made. And that's not accidental...and not something that would be unique to MQA.
True, and then some of it is demonstrably false and results in egg on face, if nothing else. The MQA folks first trademarked and used, then quietly and hastily withdrew this logo several years ago under the purported threat of inquiry by the U.K. advertising standards board, which has very strict rules and regulations:

MQAlossless.jpg

This appears to be false advertising, but apparently was explained away as "we meant perceptually lossless". In other words, more like an MP3+ than actual lossless compression.
 

mhardy6647

Señor Member
In April, 2021 CE, isn't MQA really more or less a shibboleth?

I don't really have any point to make -- I was just in the mood to use the word shibboleth, more or less accurately. :cool:

Oh, and in the context of @JohnVF's comments about the alteration he heard in Private Dancer* -- I hate, hate, hate it when I listen to some new morph of an album or a song that I know really well, and there's something subtly but indubitably different about it. Chaps my... umm... chaps.
I am not a fan of revisionist history. 😖

Speaking of new morphs of albums (and apropos of nothing)...
____________
* No judgment from me -- heck, there's a couple of Bread and Fifth Dimension albums here.
 

MrEd

Senior Nobody
No pony in the parade either, but have always been leery of the claims, then when that big brew haha went down a few years back I decided I would never use their product.
This pretty much substantiated my initial gut feelings.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
In April, 2021 CE, isn't MQA really more or less a shibboleth?
Not necessarily, and certainly not for the TIDAL users who have had their freedom of choice summarily removed, with the standard Redbook PCM versions of thousands of Warner Music Group albums subtracted from that streaming catalog in favor of MQA being the only available version.

Universal Music Group had been rumored to be next in line to do the same, and the 3 major record label conglomerates are combined 30% investors in MQA. They are on the record as stating they seek a "one deliverable" scenario in which the actual crown jewel masters are returned to the vaults and never again offered to consumers, instead this lossy upsampled pseudo hi-res taking it's place. There is also a DRM mechanism in the MQA patent, though it hasn't yet been implemented, but the threat is there.

While some have ditched the TIDAL service over that unilateral decision to limit consumer choice, others don't have many alternatives at their fingertips, for instance Qobuz is still not available in Canada though is said to be coming soon.

MQA will become a shibboleth if/when TIDAL's new owners reverse course, or drop it altogether, at which point it would very likely be dead in the water. That could happen depending on the terms of the original agreement, as I'd highly doubt Jack Dorsey doesn't see right through this scam, there's no way he'd renew at significant licensing cost, and might even just terminate the deal in an effort to clear TIDAL's name at this point, if that's even possible in the near term based on fine print in the original agreement.

I'd also think Jack Dorsey might even kill the agreement with MQA using recent and other information to prove TIDAL's previous owners were originally sold a bill of goods, and if so might even try to recoup previously paid licensing costs based on an accusation of fraud. Jack Dorsey has the money and smarts to do something like that, and probably should do it if he thought TIDAL has been badly harmed by MQA's deceptive marketing practices, but would more likely just notify MQA of a termination and leave it at that if I had to guess.

But with the record labels in cahoots as investors, and licensing fees rolling in from HiFi equipment manufacturers, no this is not a shibboleth, it remains a very real threat to the entire music industry distribution chain and thus to end user consumers.

In the end I'm hoping it gets crushed by the combination of niche hi-res offerings from Qobuz and Deezer that target the enthusiast, combined with the overwhelming market position and resources represented by Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music.

MQA loses about £5 million annually, but their greedy private equity majority owners in Switzerland and South Africa don't seem to care, suggesting they still have their eye on a larger end game prize in conjunction with the goals of the record labels. No one knows why else they would tolerate losses of £28 million since 2016, especially when the track record of MQA's creator Bob Stuart is the loss of over £40 million during a 30 year run at Meridian in which the company was profitable in exactly one year, that being the year that they sold the IP for Meridian Lossless Packing (a paid/licensed version of FLAC) to... (drum roll) Dolby, who know a thing or two about raking in licensing fees.
 

MikeO

Active Member
While some have ditched the TIDAL service over that unilateral decision to limit consumer choice, others don't have many alternatives at their fingertips, for instance Qobuz is still not available in Canada though is said to be coming soon.
Deezer is a viable alternative to Tidal in Canada. I switched from Tidal to Deezer a couple of years ago due to Tidals lack of support for Amazon Echo devices in Canada. Would have been less annoyed had they not supported it in other countries but it was available so why not to Canadian customers. At any rate, have run Deezer ever since and have no complaints. And it is $5 per month cheaper. Win/win.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I’m not sure though why Jack Dorsey would cut Tidal loose of the one thing that separates them from the rest of the market in what really is a land of parodies (except for user experience, which Spotify has correctly gambled on as the differentiator that people care about). That’s no comment on MQAs efficacy, but what else does Tidal offer that’s unique?

The market doesn’t care one bit about MQA. I’ve heard it brought up exactly zero times in “normal” life outside of this hobby. So I’m not saying it’s a successful unique selling proposition... but it is one.

The market has picked Spotify, because the general market doesn’t own gear that can differentiate between different file resolutions, and Spotify’s interface, algorithm, and even little things like their search function walk all over the competitors. And that’s ultimately what makes a difference to consumers. The average person who wants better sound has decided vinyl holds the key to that, even if it really doesn’t on the average turntable. Belief is reality in the marketplace.

That’s a lot of opinion to unpack but anyway my 2cents.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
I’m not sure though why Jack Dorsey would cut Tidal loose of the one thing that separates them from the rest of the market in what really is a land of parodies. That’s no comment on its efficacy, but what else does Tidal offer that’s unique? The market doesn’t care one bit about MQA. I’ve heard it brought up exactly zero times in “normal” life outside of this hobby. So I’m not saying it’s a successful unique selling proposition... but it is one.
The market has picked Spotify, because the general market doesn’t own gear that can differentiate between different file resolutions, and Spotify’s interface, algorithm, and even little things like their search function walk all over the competitors. And that’s ultimately what makes a difference to consumers. The average person who wants better sound has decided vinyl holds the key to that, even if it really doesn’t on the average turntable. Belief is reality in the marketplace.
That’s a lot of opinion to unpack but anyway my 2cents.
Simply to lose any licensing cost, and distance themselves from snake oil.

This would be especially true if the market doesn't care, and I agree the broad market doesn't care, but if the enthusiast side now sees the gig is up and all of the false marketing that Stereophile and TAS (among others) parroted in hook, line, and sinker fashion is actually false, then there really is no reason or upside for Dorsey to want to keep it given the broad market never gave a shit in the first place.
 
Top